Much of the past few days for UFC flyweight Andrea Lee and her husband/coach Donny Aaron have been spent answering questions. Questions like, why does Aaron have a swastika tattooed on his arm? Or a pair of ‘SS’ bolts on his other arm? And why hasn’t he gotten them removed? The tattoos are both highly recognizable Nazi symbols and common insignia for neo-Nazi hate groups.
To hear Aaron tell it, while he claims he’s never held Aryan beliefs, he got the tattoos as a way to survive in prison.
“I’ve never held Aryan superiority beliefs,” Aaron wrote in a comment on his Instagram post. “I had an out date among 500 lifers. I just wanted to get home on time. Even in prison I had friends in every clique. Many have reached out but I won’t let them be called ‘tokens’ so for the most part I’m fighting this one alone.”
Aaron, a former police officer, served time in prison following a 2009 conviction for negligent homicide, stemming from a 2005 incident. During the investigation and court case, Aaron claimed he came home from work on his lunch break to find Ronald Jamison parked near his house, drinking. An apparent argument ensued when Aaron pursued Jamison to get his license plate number and find out what he was doing in the area. According to court documents, Jamison – who was unarmed – was shot multiple times through the window of his vehicle. Aaron claimed self defense, and that he was concerned that Jamison may have been trying to rob his home.
All of which paints a clearer picture of just why Aaron would be in a situation where he might feel he needed a white supremacy tattoo, or two. But, now that that part of his life is supposedly far behind him, why hasn’t he gotten the tattoos removed? According to a lengthy apology posted to his Instagram account, the Nazi symbols are “scars” that tell his history, including his time in the clink.
“Please read this and accept my most sincere apologies to all I have offended when the photos of my tattoos became public,” Aaron wrote on the social media platform. “I’d most like to apologize to Andrea and my brother Kendrik (both pictured) for putting them in a position to feel the need to defend me when there is no defense or justification for the abhorrent tattoos that I ashamedly wear. I’d also like to apologize to her employers at the UFC for bringing them shame and embarrassment. Not least of these I apologize to MMA fans world wide for giving the sport a temporary black eye and for offending so many of those who’ve supported us for years. And to all of the elite pro fighters I’ve been blesses to work with I pray this doesn’t change your opinion of me even through most of this groups know my story.
“Furthermore, I’d like to apologize to Andrea’s sponsors who were certainly blindsided by this as were many. Know that I only offer reasons, not excuses or justification for the choices I made in my 20s. My body is covered in tattoos that tell the story of where I have been, what I’ve gone through and what I’ve overcome. These “scars” tell my history which include a dark time when I was in prison. However, they do not accurately represent who I am today as a person, my personal belief system and the respect I have for people of all races and religion. For 13 years I have tried to atone for my sins and seek forgiveness from those most certainly find my body reprehensible. I’ve, in most cases, gone to great lengths to always wear long sleeves in public setting. The photo posted was complacent error in judgment as my excitement and not thoughtfulness ruled that day.
“Many of you have offered solutions to my problem: Coverups, laser removal ect. Please trust me when I say I’ve explored both avenues and unfortunately neither is an option for me. In the meantime, I understand that many won’t forgive me and don’t believe in second chances and to you I say, ‘I understand’. I don’t deserve forgiveness and I’m certainly not asking for sympathy. If however you do believe in forgiveness, then I promise it won’t be wasted on me. I am a different human being un my mid 40’s that I was in my 20’s.
“As a final statement to Andrea’s character, it’s with certainty that I can promise you that she didn’t marry a racist. When Andrea and I met, I had already began to reinvent my life and if she’d seen any racist behavior or attitude she’d have never given me the time of day. Instead, she met a man who was and still does speak to at risk youth, who goes and speaks to inmates, who is active in his church, and who has always offered pro bono training to physically challenged and unprivileged youth.
“My life has become very culturally diverse and Andrea stared right passed my tattoos [and] at the man I’ve become. I can’t offer many solutions but I do offer this: Unless you go digging up old photos of me, you’ll never see my tattoos again. I’d rather hold the camera for Andrea, the real star anyway. Again, I offer myself as a humble and apologetic man.
“Please don’t let the sins of my past define my future. Please don’t let your hatred over me bleed into hatred toward Andrea. If you have to hate someone then please hate me. She doesn’t deserve it. She is genuinely the best person I know.”
In various other posts, Aaron has given different explanations for why he’s keeping his tattoos. He claims that covering them would make him look “even more red neck,” and that – along with another 20-inch piece that hasn’t been photographed – his work is “2 big 2 dark 2 many sq inches on my body.” Aaron also stated that when he speaks to inmates and juvenile delinquents, they approach him much more easily because of his prison tattoos.
He’s still recently posted some more tame (and even some highly ironic) forms of pseudo-nationalistic xenophobia on his Instagram account. But, following a poorly constructed defense of her husband – in which she labeled critics of his tattoos “Sensitive ass mofos” – Andrea Lee gave a more thoughtful assurance as to why she feels he’s a changed man along with an apology for lashing out.
“My comments the day before were meant to just defend my husband not his tattoo,” Lee posted on her Twitter account. “I never intended to make light of the situation, the history of the symbol or dismiss anyone that was offended. The mistakes he made in his youth are not a representation of who he is today, which is a man that loves and respects everyone. Donny was my coach long before we got together, when I first met Donny, I questioned him too about his tattoos and he explained to me about his past and who he was now and how he’d changed. The more I got to know him as a person the less I noticed his skin.
“I’m truly sorry for responding the other day the way I did, if you think I don’t care I DO! I’m not racist, I’m not a nazi and I don’t hate people and neither does Donny.
“I’ve always believed in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you, I personally try to live by that and I tell my daughter that all the time. I also don’t believe in hating a person for things they have done to you or things they have done, Period, If I don’t like someone. I never ever say that I hate people or a person, if anything I just extremely dislike a person, but never hate.
“I’m the type of person to help anyone out no matter the color of their skin or the religion they believe in, I don’t judge people based off a single thing or action or because of what someone else said about them, I chose [sic] to get to know them first and then make my own personal opinion, that’s how I am and that’s who I have always been.
“So I am sorry if I offended anyone, I apologize, please forgive me.”
As of yet there has been no statement from the UFC on Lee or Aaron – who cornered her during her recent debut with the promotion. But, for now, it appears both of them are going to be stuck dealing with explaining his decision to keep his ink, rather than her burgeoning career in the Octagon.